You've Got the Wrong Guy on the Bus—Here's What to Do

(Unsplash/Annie Spratt)

I've written before about being in the wrong seat on the bus (see here and here and here). In each case, readers have asked what to do if they have the wrong people on the bus. Here are some of the responses I've seen in dealing with such churches in consultations:

  1. They complain behind the scenes but do nothing else. Everybody's willing to talk (most often to the wrong people), but nobody's willing to take a stand. Mediocrity and frustration become the status quo.
  2. They try over and over again to find the right seat for the person. Churches usually default to grace, and they try hard not to fire a brother or sister in Christ. This process can go on for years, in fact.
  3. They wait it out while the staff member seeks a position in another church. They know he's looking, and the transition seems smoother if it happens via God's call to another place.
  4. They patiently pray for God to move him, but without letting him know. That way, nobody has to have a difficult conversation.
  5. They fire somebody with little warning. In some cases, the church moves the person off the bus—but he or she is shocked by the change. To that point, nobody had shared the major concerns.
  6. They move the person to a part-time seat. That way, he still gets an income, but the church's work isn't as limited if his seat is only part-time.
  7. They choose to bide their time until retirement comes. Obviously, this option applies to someone at retirement age who's become unproductive—and it's usually someone the church loves deeply.
  8. They work with the staff member until he makes it impossible for him to remain. They try to provide training and support, but the staff member remains unteachable and angry. He almost forces the church to make a move.
  9. They hire a consultant with the hope that he'll make the recommendation. That doesn't happen often, but I've interviewed leaders who make it clear what they want to happen after we give our consultation report.
  10. They shepherd the staff member off the bus. That is, they lovingly work with the staff member to move from the bus. In different cases, that process might include:
    • Helping him get career counseling to determine God's call
    • Moving him into a temporary, more productive role while determining the next steps
    • Giving him a specified continued time of salary and benefits while he seeks another job; might include a sabbatical with no further ministry responsibilities
    • Making him aware of other opportunities more in line with his calling
    • Praying regularly with him.

What would you add to this list?

Chuck Lawless is dean and vice president of graduate studies and ministry centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as professor of evangelism and missions. In addition, he is global theological education consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

This article originally appeared at

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